Saturday, October 22, 2011

Where Now, WikiLeaks?

WikiLeaks has reached a fork in the road. On one side, supporters are encouraged by the global Occupy Wall Street protests, which were largely inspired by the Arab Spring protests, which in turn were at least partly inspired by WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks revelations have also helped force changes to government policies, including Obama's decision to withdraw US troops from Iraq. Courage is contagious, especially when there are tangible results on display.

But at the same time, the organisation faces a funding crisis. Financial support has clearly been damaged by the relentless media assaults on WikiLeaks, which have been focussed on the character assassination of Julian Assange. Too many people say they support WikiLeaks but don't like Julian Assange. Even keen WikiLeaks supporters have been brain-washed by endless media attacks on the enigmatic Australian.

But perhaps the confusion is understandable: the attacks have been relentless, and responses never seem to get the same coverage as the accusations. So let's take a moment to set a few things straight.

Let's Talk About Julian

As I write, Assange remains under house arrest, awaiting a UK court decision on moves to extradite him for questioning in Sweden. HE STILL HAS NOT BEEN CHARGED WITH A SINGLE CRIME IN ANY COUNTRY. This hasn't stopped global media spreading the lie that "Assange has been charged with rape". This is a smear that supporters should challenge loudly whenever they see it. The facts are available for anyone who is seriously interested.

Similarly, a single conviction for non-malicious hacking over 20 years ago has produced a recurring meme that Assange is "the world's greatest hacker." This meme has incensed some self-professed hackers to the point where they turned against WikiLeaks (just as Arab Spring demonstrators were earlier incited to turn against Assange because he supposedly claimed credit for revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt - another lie). The Anonymous hackers revelled in Assange's recent #OccupyLSX admission that he owes them a debt of gratitude. Hey, he even threw lollies into the crowd! Do you still think he doesn't appreciate you?

So why doesn't Assange respond to such criticism more rapidly and effectively? Perhaps he assumes the rest of us should be able to see it for what it is: petty jealousy amplified into media smears. Of perhaps he just has a hell of a lot of more important things to deal with.

Legal issues have taken a serious toll on Assange's time and funds. No doubt this is by design: the wheels of justice move tortuously slowly for some (much faster for others). Here's another lie: some people have criticized Assange for using WikiLeaks donations to support his own personal legal battles. Not true. Assange has denied it, WikiLeaks has denied it, and those making the accusation have never produced any proof. And yet the rumours persists, a testament, as Assange recently explained, to the power of libel.

Of course, disinterested observers have the right to make up their own minds about such accusations. You might think: "Where there's smoke there's fire", right? But how would YOU feel if the same logic were applied to malicious stories about YOU? Surely anyone making such an accusation bears a burden of proof - and if they cannot prove it, then it's just baseless slander. Right?

Several of these unsubstantiated attacks have come from "WikiLeaks insiders". Daniel Domscheit-Berg once shared a stage with Julian Assange, so the media were happy to treat him as an equal partner in WikiLeaks. In fact he was treated as much more than equal - while the media falsely blamed Assange for being the first to release the full, unredacted Cablegate treasure trove, they ignored Domsheit-Berg's interview with German media organisation Freitag, which basically told the world where to find the encrypted file and password. While the media pored over Assange's motivations for embarrassing the US government, they never asked if Domsheit-Berg might be dragging WikiLeaks down in order to promote his own alternative project.

An entire book could be devoted to dissecting media attacks from the likes of The Guardian's blindly egotistical editor David Leigh, the similarly afflicted Heather Brooks, or the New York Times' pathetic former editor Bill Keller. Wherever possible, these self-inflated journalists have cleverly amplified certain aspects of WikiLeaks as part of their relentless character assassination of Assange. Let's just take one under-examined example...

Let's Talk About Israel Shamir

Former WikiLeaks insider James Ball, now on The Guardian's payroll, wrote an article that smeared Assange by association with a little-known independent journalist named Israel Shamir, whom Ball labelled "anti-Semitic". Similar allegations were published in David Leigh's WikiLeaks book (Ball was presumably the source for Leigh's chapter on this) and an excerpt from that book was published in The Guardian newspaper. So that's three times The Guardian has published the same "anti-Semitic" accusations. Oh, wait, no - make that four.

(According to Godwin's Law, anyone who invokes Hitler automatically renders their argument nonsensical. Let us declare a similar Law for the term "anti-Semite", which is now purposefully wielded to stigmatise people and shut down discussion. It has even become a favoured tool of state. But I digress.)

Ball suggested that Shamir gave unredacted US cables to the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, who then used that information to crack down on dissenters. Ball's only proof for this is that Shamir was "seen leaving the interior ministry of Belarus". So in fact there is no proof that Israel Shamir gave cables to anyone, least of all Lukashenko.

In the following days:

- Luvashenko said he wanted to see a Belarussian version of WikiLeaks.
- a Belarus state-owned media organisation announced that they would be publishing stories based on the WikiLeaks cables, and
- Shamir published a bizarre article about how nice life is in post-Soviet Belarus.

Critics of Assange interpreted all this as proof that Shamir had given the cables to Luvashenko, and immediately concluded that Assange's stewardship of WikiLeaks was therefore suspect. Even the Index on Censorship jumped on the bandwagon.

Pressured to respond, what could WikiLeaks say? They demanded proof that the cables had been handed over. Of course nobody could supply such proof. The spotlight fell on Shamir, who insisted that he never gave anybody the unredacted cables, and was only working with the Belarus media to publish his own Cablegate stories. But who is going to trust the word of a man who has just been widely branded a notorious "anti-Semite"? This is how the smear game works.

So what kind of man is Israel Shamir? He is an independent journalist who has worked with reputable organisations like the BBC and Haaretz. He was given the same level of access to a restricted set of WikiLeaks cables as other respected journalists like Australia's Phillip Dorling. Shamir never "worked for WikiLeaks" - that's another widespread lie - and he was never "paid by WikiLeaks" - another lie.

So what about the "anti-Semitism" allegations? I wonder how many people bothered to research them before passing judgement? How many bothered to read Shamir's own explanation of his views:
Naturally, as a son of Jewish parents and a man living in the Jewish state and deeply and intimately involved with Jewish culture, I harbour no hate to a Jew because he is a Jew. I doubt many people do. However I did and do criticise various aspects of Jewish Weltanschauung like so many Jewish and Christian thinkers before me, or even more so for I witnessed crimes of the Jewish state that originated in this worldview...

As for the accusation of “Holocaust denial”, my family lost too many of its sons and daughters for me to deny the facts of Jewish tragedy, but I do deny its religious salvific significance implied in the very term ‘Holocaust’; I do deny its metaphysical uniqueness, I do deny the morbid cult of Holocaust and I think every God-fearing man, a Jew, a Christian or a Muslim should reject it as Abraham rejected and smashed idols...

I am not offended easily by morons. However, this ‘denier’ rhetoric keeps many of my erstwhile associates at arm’s length; no one likes being labelled, and I do not wish these labels to be rubbed off onto my friends, especially those like Julian Assange who never were interested in the subject. My Zionist opponents are obsessed with race and holocausts; I am not.
Agree or disagree with Shamir's views, he is entitled to them. Personally, I find no evidence of "anti-Semitism" in his writings. But whatever your views on Shamir, critics should be careful to damn Assange by association with him. Didn't Assange also "associate" with David Leigh, James Ball, Heather Brooks and Bill Keller? Should WikiLeaks also be damned for THEIR reprehensible behaviour?

Enough. You can read more about Wikileaks, Shamir and The Guardian's allegations here and here and here if you are interested. This just one small part a relentless, co-ordinated media campaign to smear Assange's character, ridicule his personality, portray WikiLeaks as a dangerous organisation, and thereby alienate any existing or potential followers.

If you are wondering why The Guardian, of all papers, is so closely involved in this smear attack, I recommend this article. It's all about credibility and target audiences.

So What Now?

Julian Assange is not the Messiah, but nor is he the evil Bond villain the media portray. Assange is only human, and WikiLeaks is doing a brilliant job under very adverse conditions. If you can see through the media's orchestrated attacks on WikiLeaks, then you have to ask yourself why those attacks keep coming - on whose behalf are they being orchestrated? Who controls the editors who drive this agenda?

Wikileaks has laid bare the naked corruption of our ruling elites and their media enablers. At a time when our environment and global economies are critically in need of radical change, the genii of revolutionary thought is suddenly out of the bottle. Meanwhile, authorities are fighting a losing game, at ever greater expense to taxpayers and their own credibility, in trying to shut down such whistle-blowing sites, organisations and associated social movements.

WikiLeaks has proved that the technology now exists whereby anyone can safely and anonymously disclose information. Whistle-blowers no longer need to fear personal recriminations, unless they send information carelessly or through an untrustworthy site. And despite welcome competition from many areas (and despite ridiculous smear attacks blaming Julian Assange for Bradley Manning's incarceration) WikiLeaks remains the single most trusted site for such leaks.

In the end, there are only two things now stopping WikiLeaks from powering ahead, even if Julian Assange is extradited and imprisoned. The first problem is the online dropbox, which was disabled when "The Architect" followed Domscheit-Berg out the door. Assange has said he hopes to have the dropbox restored in a few more months. But the second and more critical problem could derail that hope.

This is the dilemma faced by anyone wanting to fight for truth and justice in today's world - money. There was a time when those most valued by society were those who best cared for and protected others. But modern society does not place a proper financial value on transparency, honesty and courageous truth-telling, even though corporate-sponsored lies and propaganda are destroying our lives. We need to supply that value ourselves.

Imagine for a moment a future where both WikiLeaks and the #Occupy movement have been crushed, where the Internet is no longer freely available to all, where Julian Assange languishes in a Guantanamo Bay cell, where his supporters have been silenced or imprisoned. Is that the kind of world we want to bequeath to our children?

"Even if WikiLeaks is destroyed, other people have been inspired by our work and they will continue to carry the flame,” Assange said recently. Perhaps that is true. I don't know.

All I know is that if we can stay strong, build our networks of support, and remain united in our desire for justice, there is no stopping us. Ever.


UPDATE 1: Since publishing this post I have had a lengthy Twitter chat with James Ball @jamesrbuk and he still cannot provide any clear evidence of "anti-Semitism" from Israel Shamir.

UPDATE 2: Yet another "anti-Semitic" smear by association in the Guardian today, this time by the "culture editor" of Sweden's Expressen newspaper:

UPDATE 3: Unbelievable. Yet ANOTHER smear printed in The Guardian by James Ball with the same tired allegations. The Guardian has jumped the shark here, we should all have a good think about the reasons for that.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Reasons Why WikiLeaks Will Win The Nobel Prize For Peace (OK, Not This Year!)

1. Un-missable chance for Norway to make Sweden look bad. LOL!

2. Supporting the release of CableGate, the Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War logs and the Collateral Murder video surely makes up for giving the Nobel to U.S. President Obama (worst decision evuh?).

3. Nobel Prize chairman's own comments today:
"This year's prize will be important, I think it will be well-received."

"We saw many of the (Arab Spring) actors at the time, but that doesn't mean that the prize goes in that direction, because there are many other positive developments in the world," he said.

"The most positive development will get the prize," Jagland said.

"So I'm a little bit surprised that it has not been already seen by many commentators and experts and all this because for me it's obvious."

"Not necessarily a big name, but a big mission — something important for the world."

"For me and the committee, I think it's quite obvious if you look at the world today and see what is happening out there," he said. "What are the major forces pushing the world in the right direction?"

4. Timing. Right now, WikiLeaks badly needs the money, increased public support, and subsequent political "capitol" this will bring. The award could keep WikiLeaks alive (and Julian Assange out of jail).

5. WikiLeaks did not create the Arab Spring (and JA never claimed that it did). But just like Facebook and Twitter, it HELPED those revolutions succeed. An award to WikiLeaks also acknowledges such movements around the world, including #OccupyWallStreet.

6. Geography. For better or worse, most Nobel winners are from Western countries. Not so surprising when those giving the award are Europeans.

UPDATE! 7. A Swedish writer just won the Literature prize - now there's even less risk of rightwing extremist Swedish political backlash if they give the Peace Prize to WikiLeaks.

What else? Add your own reasons in the comments!